Friday, May 4, 2018

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon

I have long loved Moroccan food.  It is one of the great cuisines of the world-- exotic and flavorful, warming my palate and my mind with all of the romance of artists and writers flourishing in and inspired by this colorful locale.

A traditional living room. Photo by Xiquet - Public Domain,

And this is my new favorite recipe!  I make it every week, and on the nights when I'm not making it, I think about having it later in the week.  I can't wait to make it for my family the next time I get a chance to visit.

A classic recipe, I have seen this on the pages of many Moroccan cookbooks, but I never had preserved lemons until now.  These are an important ingredient.  I have seen information about alternatives online, but I would not do that.   If your local ethnic market does not carry these, then they are available from Amazon here.  This is the brand that I use, but there are others available at a variety of price points just search under "preserved lemons."  After taking one from the jar, I rinse it under cold water to remove excess brine (salt).  Then I dice the whole thing up- rind, pulp, seeds and all.

Traditionally, this dish would be served over couscous, but I like it over quinoa for a modern healthier alternative, though rice would be equally good.  I also added artichoke hearts to my version.  I love them and they make a nice tangy addition.  I increase the chicken broth to give a little extra sauce to spoon over everyone's plate and have plenty for leftovers.  Here we go!  So good!

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon

2 heaping teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ¼  cups unsalted chicken stock
⅓ cup rinsed and chopped jarred preserved lemon
½ cup kalamata olives
8 small canned artichoke hearts
1 tablespoon butter
Chopped fresh cilantro


Cut chicken breasts in half or thirds. Place in a ziplock bag with the cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix well to coat evenly. 
Refrigerate for at least an hour to marinate.

Heat a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat.
Add chicken pieces to pan and cook 4 minutes. Turn chicken over and add stock to pan. 
Sprinkle lemon, olives, and artichokes over the top. Reduce to medium and cook 6 minutes. 
Partially cover and cook 4 minutes more (or until chicken is done but it should be done at this point). 
Add butter to pan and stir until melted. Done!

Serve over couscous (or rice, or quinoa). 
Be sure to drizzle plenty of the liquid over all and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Momoko Workshop at BlytheCon Brooklyn

The Duffle Coat constructed at the Workshop


With the next BlytheCon fast approaching, this review is rather late in coming.  But it is still useful information about constructing the Duffle Coat for Blythe pattern project and other details of Momoko's general techniques.

First, I had a great time in New York!  The shows!  The premeet dinner!  The Con!  The workshop!

The premeet dinner

Some of the dolls at our table for dinner

This is the Matryoshka Doll carry bag that I made for us to carry our doll to Dinner and the other BlytheCon Brooklyn events.

My costume entry

For the Costume / Photo contest, I made a replica of Madonna's iconic "Like a Virgin" outfit.  They displayed photos of our entries on site during the Convention.
Ready to go! In our 1980s style outfits!
Leo / Poupée mécanique

Romina / I Have Wings
Bridgette with Gina Garan
A big thank you to the BlytheCon organizers.  This was a great event!  Every detail was perfect.  I had so much fun; it was absolutely a whirlwind of activity and then it was over before I knew it.  It was great to see old friends and meet new people.  Bridgette won a doll!  And I won a reroot from Piparrot!
The doll and reroot certificate that we won!

Momoko was very busy with a demo on her sailor dress pattern and a socks make and take event.  We sure will miss her and the demos at BlytheCon Los Angeles!

And a big highlight for me was of course the workshop.  This BlytheCon featured two workshop sections, one before and one after the main event.

BlytheCon Brooklyn Momoko Workshop: Winter is Coming!

You can download the pattern from Momoko's Etsy shop here.

At the workshop, we had the choice of two colors, black or dark pink.  I chose pink.

Here are my tips:
1.  Momoko works in exact stitching.  She often sews or shapes to the millimeter.  Her classes always remind me to get back into the practice of exacting detail sewing.
2.  The seam on the hood: trim away the extra fabric AFTER topstitching.
3.  When shaping the pockets and tabs, fold the ends just slightly more so that they are not hanging out and visible in the final topstitch.
4.  Topstitching the tabs is difficult.  Glue them down firmly first, and not just a dot in the middle or they will twist and go off the straight mark.  Use tiny stitches to get a better look and have more control.
5.  I love the Dolly threads that Momoko sold us! So delicate.
6.  The underarm and back seam:  don't sew over them.Sew from the joint down and repeat, to keep the seam allowance free.
7.  When sewing the shoulder seam and the underarm seam, do not sew all the way to the edge of the fabric, leave the seam allowance open.  Then you don't have to clip there for ease.
8.  On the jacket yoke, make sure the yoke front edge is exactly parallel to the jacket front edge.  It will be very noticeable when you finish the coat.
9.  Sew the strings down by hand to get them in the exact spot.
10.  When sewing the sleeve: first adjust the stitches just slightly larger and ease stitch the top of the sleeve.  Pull the top thread to shape the sleeve into the nice curve that you are looking for in the sleeve shape. Now pin and sew the sleeve to the jacket.
This event was super fun! The venue was awesome. 
Thank you to Kathleen Stevens for organizing this wonderful event! 
You are so sweet, as well as accommodating of my advancing disability.

A huge thank you to Momoko Komori for sharing all of your knowledge 
and for being such a kind and patient teacher.  
 I love my Pink Duffle Coat!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fall Flavor: Healthy Crockpot Chili

As the leaves begin change, the days get shorter, and we settle into our back to school routines, our lives definitely get busier.  It's nice to come home to the comforting smell of a dinner already prepared and waiting for you.  And chili is one of those rare comfort foods that is actually good for you!  Here is a super simple and yummy version that I love to make.  This is a lightly spicy version that is good for both kids and adults.  For a little more kick add a couple more jalapenos!

Chili Recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 (25 oz) can black beans*
1 (25 oz) can pinto beans*
1 (25 oz) can kidney beans*
1 (28 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes*
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce*
1 (15 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes with medium green chilies*
4+ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
Dash of cumin
Salt to taste

*I like to buy low sodium beans and tomatoes when possible.  Then I can add back in the high quality sea salt to taste.  It gives me more control, and I like to eat low sodium for an anti-inflammatory diet.

Fresh ingredients in the pot ready to slow cook!
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium high heat.  Cook the turkey meat.
  2. While the turkey is cooking, dice the vegetables and add to the slow cooker.  Drain and rinse the beans, then add to the slow cooker.  Add the tomatoes and spices to the slow cooker.  Add the meat and stir to combine.
  3. Cook for 4 hours on high.  Serve with tortillas or rice, a sprinkling of grated cheese and chopped green onions, or however you like your chili! 






Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How to remove stains from your precious Blythe doll

Oh no!  Your doll has a stain!

A word about prevention…

Unsightly and upsetting stains can be caused by shoes, tights, fabrics, even bias tape used on garments to finish the edges of armholes, necklines and hems, etc.  First and foremost is protecting your precious girl from the stains in the first place.  She can wear tights and even protective undergarments like those offered by CoolCat here.  

Many fabrics can leave stains on a doll.  Red, black, and indigo blue are the main colors that have problems with color fastness.  So you could just stay away from those colors.  I always line my dresses with white batiste to protect dolls. Additionally before sewing, I wash fabrics in warm water with a mild detergent to check for color fastness.  

Some people will wash in Synthrapol to help pull out any excess dye and prevent the molecules from reattaching to fabric fibers.  This kind of a wash is particularly important when you are dyeing, using chemical dyes or batik. 


However, even commercially produced fabrics from stores such as JoAnn can have dye run off or bleeding. If the dye does run, I use Rit Dye Fixative or Retayne.  Both are good fixatives and are readily available on Amazon. A chemical dye set is best, especially for a chemical dye.  After a half hour soak in very hot water and a fixative, rinse well and do another wash.  Usually the bleeding is solved, but if the fabric still runs, then I count it as a loss and throw it away.  Also, I never make tights out of any fabric that has any problem with color fastness from the get go.  

But my doll already has a stain...


 What can you do?!

The good news is-- it's fairly simple to remove stains from Blythe's legs and feet.  This will also work on some arm stains, but it does take longer.  

For facial stains, I would try another method that I won't go into here.  That can be complex.  It depends on whether she is customized or not and what the surface of her skin is like, shiny or matte.  Also, you don't want to remove her makeup.  So there are a lot of variables with face and head stains.  It’s more complex.

Right, so now we are going to talk about legs stains.  Often boots or tights are the culprits.  Like these lovely boots.  

Awesome boots by BHC.  But evil...
See how badly stained my girl's feet are?

 They stained my girl's feet nearly black.  And in the picture above, she already has her first coat of cream applied!
Eek!  There's a spot on her arm too!

 And black lace tights stained another doll's legs!  Actually, right now she is a clothing model sans head, so it's not really a big deal.  But it is a real Takara body, so I might as well keep it in decent condition.


You use this stuff.  It is pimple cream from the drug store.  I got this at CVS.  Look for some extra strength with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide.  

Smear a good coat on.  After applying a good thick coat of the cream, I wrap her in plastic wrap to keep the product active.  (If it dries out then you have to rinse or wipe with a wet washcloth and recoat.  Make sure that you wipe with a white washcloth or one that you don't care about, because this stuff is bleach, so it will mark your washcloths.)  Now set her in a window or indirect sunlight to speed up the process.  You can put a small towel or washcloth (another clean one!) over her face to protect it from the sun if you are worried about yellowing.  I left her there for about 2 weeks, and I re-applied 2 to 3 times.
Doll 1: just the feet

Doll 2: stage1
2nd application

Here are my results!   I even treated a spot on her arm that responded fairly well.

Doll 2: most of the stains from the tights are gone!
Doll 2: Arm stain significantly faded!

 The model doll (Doll 2) is so much better!  I could apply another treatment to resolve the lingering stain or just wait it out.  I think that the rest of the stains will resolve on their own at this point.

And my little vamp with the black feet?  She is relaxing, knowing that her stains are nearly gone as well.

So before you panic, apply that pimple cream, then reapply and give it some time.  Also, I find that light staining can tend to resolve itself over time.  Put some heavier white cotton tights on your girl and forget about it for awhile, a long while, and they may just resolve on their own, and at the very least you won’t see them.

Happy Blything!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

BlytheCon Brooklyn Skirt Directions

BlytheCon Brooklyn Skirt Instructions

Swatch of fabric, 4” by 7”
3 ½ “ piece of 1/8 “ wide elastic
1” piece of 1/8” wide leather
Small buckle or button

I am making the donation skirts out of the BCBk plaid.  If you are attending, then you don’t need to make one out of that.  But if you are not, and you want an exact replica, then fabric is available here.    I got the Plaid Small in Basic Cotton Ultra.  And a swatch is enough for this skirt!  But I think that this skirt will be cute in lots of different designs, so get creative!

The leather is widely available at craft stores like Michael’s, look in the leather and beading sections.  It is the flat 1/8 inch wide leather strapping.

If you want to wait for the slow boat from China, the buckles are available most affordably on eBay and Mimiwoo.  
But they are also available from a US seller  However, I think that there is room for creativity on this.  You could use a ribbon and a button or two.  Or you could do an embroidery chain stitch.  Even just put a pretty mini applique there.

All garments benefit from good pressing, but pressing is particularly important in this pattern.  So get out that trusty iron!

  1. Preliminary Pressing
The pattern is really just a rectangle and you don’t need to mark anything.  Before you sew press under ½ inch on both long edges.  

Next: press in the pleats.  

There are 2 pleats.  The first one is 2 ⅞” from the left side.  Fold and press here.

The pleats are ⅜” deep, so my next press looks like this.

There is ¼” between the pleats.  So I measure out ¼” from the last pleat edge, then fold under and press.  

Then I fold under the final pleat with a depth of ⅜” again and do the final press.

  1. Make the Waistband Elastic Casing
This can be a bit confusing, so I’ll try to break it down step by step.  At this point you can’t just fold under the casing.  One, because the pleats are in the way, and two, because the elastic would not fit through.  

So this is your pressed piece ready to go.

To make the casing, you need to open out the top folds and get the top flat, so that when you fold it under you can insert the elastic. First, adjust and pin your pleats in place on the front to keep the bottom edge tidy.

Now, flip it over and looking at it from the back side, it looks like this:

Fold open the top edge, while keeping the pleats in place.

When you fold it up, the creases from the pressing are going in a different direction at the top, which makes the fabric flower out.  So I just finger press them to match the rest of the crease.  Now it lies flatter.

Now keeping the pleats in place, fold the top edge down not quite half way and pin in place.

Then fold again on the original press line.

And re-pin in place.

Stitch close to that edge. This is your casing for the elastic.

  1. Insert Elastic
I have a special tool that I use for inserting elastic in narrow casings.  You can get it on Amazon.  It’s also Available at JoAnn.  But you can use a bodkin or a safety pin, if you like.

Insert it in this direction so that the elastic doesn’t get caught in the folds.  Attach your elastic to the end and pull it though.  

It’s a little bit fussy, so have patience.  It helps to put a pin through the end of the elastic to keep it from being pulled all the way into the casing.  Now pin the ends.
IMG_9410 (1).jpg

And stitch ⅛” from the edge to secure.

You are almost done!

  1. Back Seam and Hemming (You have a choice here.)

1) You can run a hem along the bottom right now while the back seam is open.  That is easier.  Fold out the pressed edge straightening out the pleats, and fold under about halfway, then stitch close to the edge.  Now, right sides together, and minding your pattern if you are matching plaids, pin and stitch the back seam from waistband to hem.  Done!


2) The version described above will put a seam in your hem and lots of people do this. But I like the finished look of enclosing the seam in the hem.  So I fold the skirt right sides together and stitch from waist to hem.

Now fold out the hem straightening out the pleats, fold under about halfway, and stitch close to that edge.  It’s rather fussy work.  You can see that the skirt rotates around my foot as I sew.

See how pretty it looks this way?

  1. Final Press
Press the elastic open at the waist.  
IMG_9518 (1).jpg

Now from the bottom, press the seam flat.  
IMG_9516 (1).jpg

Now repress your pleats in place since you had to open them out for the hem.

  1. Embellish
Take your 1” piece of leather and shape the ends.  Position your buckle on one end.  You can make a groove in the leather for the center of the buckle to make it lie more flat.  Sew it across the pleats about ⅝” down from the top of the waistband.

Done! Let’s see your skirts!  Post photos!